Today in Feminist History: Rosalind Weiner to Become Youngest Person Ever Serving on LA City Council [+SPECIAL UPDATE] (May 26, 1953)

Today in Feminist History is our daily recap of the major milestones and minor advancements that shaped women’s history in the U.S.—from suffrage to Shirley Chisholm and beyond. These posts were written by, and are presented in homage to, our late staff historian and archivist, David Dismore.


May 26, 1953: A 22-year-old woman will soon become the youngest person ever to have served on the Los Angeles City Council—only the second woman ever to have done so—and the Council’s first Jewish member since 1900, all thanks to tonight’s election victory.

Rosalind Weiner, who began her campaign less than a year after graduating from the University of Southern California, has no powerful political connections or wealth, and yet by a skilled, persistent, grassroots campaign has convinced the voters of the 5th District that she should represent them at City Hall.

She has been a campaigner ever since she became the first female student body president in the history of Los Angeles High School. After graduation in 1948, she went on to U.S.C., starting off as a pre-law major, then switched to Public Administration.

She has been active in California politics since volunteering for the Helen Gahagan Douglas Senatorial campaign of 1950, and earlier this year became a member of a local citizens’ committee to select a candidate for the City Council. She was immediately drafted for the job by the group.

Coming up with money for the campaign was a challenge, but friends, neighbors and volunteers pitched in, and soon the effort was in high gear. Even her 7-year-old nephew, Tony, gave a speech. Then he offered to sell his polliwogs—netting $1.25 for the cause–which the Council-Member-elect says put things over the top financially.

Campaign headquarters was the apartment of her parents, both pharmacists and avid New Deal Democrats. From there, she and her volunteers would go out each day knocking on doors. As always, she set the pace, ringing a total of 4,500 doorbells herself. Though warned that being young and female would be handicaps in her race, she found that both actually worked in her favor, especially among homemakers, who became quite supportive of her campaign after meeting and talking to her.

So, a third of a century after passage of the 19th Amendment, the “women’s vote” seems to be emerging as an increasingly important factor in elections, and as it does, the worthy goal of equal representation for women in all legislative bodies should get closer to being achieved!

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UPDATE: Rosalind Weiner Wyman was elected to two more four-year terms on the City Council. In 1958 she was chosen “Woman of the Year” by the Los Angeles Times. She was instrumental in bringing the Dodgers to Los Angeles, and the team still honors her efforts, because on May 7, 2013, she threw out the ceremonial “first pitch” in their game against the Diamondbacks.

She was Chair and Chief Executive Officer of the 1984 National Democratic Convention, and is still quite active in Democratic politics at all levels, She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Feminist Majority Foundation, and in 2015 was appointed by a unanimous vote to serve on the Los Angeles County Arts Commission.


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About

David Dismore is the archivist for the Feminist Majority Foundation. His journey from would-be weather forecaster to full-time feminist began with the powerful impression made by a photo and a few paragraphs about the suffragists in his high school history textbook; years later, he had his first encounter with NOW—in which he carefully peeked in a window before opening the door to be sure men were allowed. He was eventually active in the ERA extension campaign of 1978, embarked on a cross-country bikeathon for it in 1982 and even worked for pioneers Toni Carabillo and Judith Meuli.